Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ukrainian Boy `Reborn' with Sight

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ukrainian Boy `Reborn' with Sight

Article excerpt

Yaroslav Semchysen is going home to Ukraine today, a changed boy.

He can see.

"My son was born a second time, and I with him, too," said Halyna Semchysen, Yaroslav's mother. "He is happy. He is running, jumping, singing and dancing."

Three-year-old Yaroslav arrived in St. Louis three months ago for a cornea transplant to restore vision in his left eye.

Dr. David Schanzlin replaced the opaque cornea in Yaroslav's eye with a donated cornea obtained by the Mid-America Transplant Association. Schanzlin performed the operation July 2 at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

On Thursday, Yaroslav sat watching Barney on television, singing along in English. But he was puzzled. Was the Barney on TV the real Barney, or was the real Barney the furry stuffed dinosaur he has packed in his suitcase for the trip home? He leaned forward to touch the television screen, as if the answer lay in his fingertips.

In some ways, it does. Although Yaroslav now has the biological equipment for sight, he must develop the neural pathways that will allow him to process visual information.

To translate blurry shapes and colors into a face, for instance, will take practice and time. And until he has learned to see, Yaroslav will continue to fall back on his "first sight" - his acute sense of touch.

Since his arrival, Yaroslav has taken enormous steps toward independence - as the bruises on his shins testify. Where he groped his way through a room and clung to walls before, Yaroslav now runs headlong toward an object of curiosity. At a summer camp at The Wilson School in Clayton, Yaroslav played with other children for the first time, and promptly fell in love - with camp and a little girl.

Yaroslav now feeds and dresses himself. He has learned his ABCs - in English. No mean feat for a 3-year-old, much less a child who was legally blind two months ago and spoke only Ukrainian.

During their stay, the Semchysens lived with Dr. William Selezinka, an ophthalmologist at the St. Louis Eye Institute, and his wife, Karan. Selezinka, a native of Ukraine, met Yaroslav a year ago in Ivano Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine, when Selezinka went there to see patients for a week. …

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